Late last night, after a huge win, the Calgary Flames decided to make a coaching change. Geoff Ward has been relieved of his duties and will be replaced by Darryl Sutter, who joins the Flames for his second stint behind the bench. Sutter worked with the Flames between 2002-2006 and last coached with the Los Angeles Kings in 2017.
The firing of Ward shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, though the timing does seem a bit odd. The Flames scored seven goals against the Ottawa Senators last night to even their record at 11-11-2, but it wasn’t enough to save the coach. Ward was only just given the full-time position in September when the Flames removed the interim tag. He had taken over last season when Bill Peters was forced to resign and led the team to a 24-15-3 record, but things were quite obviously not the same this time around.
Calgary has been a disorganized mess this season, even after spending a substantial amount of money in the offseason. The team brought in Chris Tanev and Jacob Markstrom on long-term deals but still haven’t figured out the right mix. They’ve had up-and-down performances from their best players, including Matthew Tkachuk who went five games in a row last month without even a point. The team has tried to kickstart Sam Bennett’s game by placing him on the top line, only to see him fail and end up in the press box once again.
In Sutter, they’ll certainly be bringing in a lot of experience. The 62-year-old coach sits 17th on the all-time list for wins with 634 (though also 15th in losses with 467) and won two Stanley Cup championships with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014. He also was the Flames coach during their last deep postseason run, when they made it to the Final in 2004.
The team had considered him previously for the opening but obviously felt now a change couldn’t wait. The good thing for Flames fans is that even with their mediocre record, the team is by no means out of the playoff race in the North Division. Calgary sits just two points back of the Montreal Canadiens and four points back of the Edmonton Oilers for the last two playoff spots. If Sutter can squeeze out some wins in the short term, the team will be right back in the fight.